A subdued amount of surprise came during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix. With rain forecasted for the weekend, a large rainfall has not been seen yet, with just minor drops falling at a stage in the session.
As a result, another dry session came to a usual ending – Mercedes leading the way. Lewis Hamilton took a 60th pole position of his career, joining Ayrton Senna (65) and Michael Schumacher (68) as the third pilot to reach the milestone.
He also won the FIA Pole Trophy for the second year in a row, with the pole being the 11th of his season, the most of any driver.
Other stories have emerged during the weekend so far to make headlines.
FERRARI APPEAL FIA OUTCOME… AGAIN?
On the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend, the FIA rejected Ferrari’s appeal over Sebastian Vettel’s penalty at the Mexican Grand Prix after the team claimed that ‘new elements’ had emerged.
Vettel was given a ten-second time penalty, moving him from third to fifth in the final classification, after being found to have driven ‘potentially dangerously or erratically’ while defending against Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo during the Mexican race.
The team put in an appeal, but it was denied after the stewards from the race found that the team’s evidence had already been known in the previous race, and there was nothing new to discuss.
“Scuderia Ferrari argued in its written submission that the ‘new element,’ in accordance with Article 14.1, existed. In its verbal submissions, it also argued that there were two ‘new elements’,” a statement from the FIA read.
The team believed race director Charlie Whiting could have told Max Verstappen to give his third place to Vettel before the Ricciardo incident happened.
“In relation to the matter of the race director having the ‘power’ to instruct the driver of Car 33 to give back the alleged advantage, we note firstly that the relevant article gives the race director ‘absolute authority’ to allow the driver to give back a position,” the statement continued. “It does not imply an obligation to do so. The fact that the race director did not exercise his discretion is not relevant to the decision taken in Document 38.”
Ferrari also presented evidence from GPS they believed brought something new to the discussion.
“In relation to the GPS data, we note that this data is available to teams during the race,” the statement read. “It is also available to, and referred to by, the stewards in the Stewards Room during the race.”
The team could again appeal this decision if they want to, which they have apparently have now done. It is unclear what the team could gain from another analysis of the event, or if their evidence will again be heard.
GROSJEAN’S BEST QUALI PERFORMANCE
Excellent performance on the track is surely the perfect birthday present for Gene Haas, who turned 64 on the Saturday of the race weekend.
Indeed, Romain Grosjean stood out as one of the drivers of the session by setting a lap time good enough for seventh on the grid.
It is the highest position that a Haas car has ever outright qualified in in the sport; however, Grosjean did start seventh in Japan, moving up a place because of grid penalties applied to other racers.
The weekend has been an interesting one for the team.
Grosjean had a busy first practice session of tests, spending an installation lap with the halo device attached to his car before spending nine laps on Brembo brakes and a further 15 on Carbone Industrie material.
Using both types of brakes on the same track at a similar time and a similar temperature should be enough evidence of good data for the team to rely upon. The team will hope that this can be a breakthrough to end recent struggles with brakes during weekends.
After qualifying, he confirmed the use of new brakes and the team’s focus on such a troubling area of the VF-16 car.
“It’s good to be back in Q3, especially after the last two races where we were out in Q1 and really struggling,” Grosjean said. “Here we’ve been trying some new brakes, focusing on making them work as well as we could. The feeling was good right from the beginning and the cooler track conditions really helped us a lot.”
Grosjean was in an optimistic mood, saying he did not expect to reach the top-ten shootout for pole and that he has faith with the current pace of the car.
“There are still plenty of margins to improve for the future,” Grosjean said. “We’re always learning more about what we need to do, but we really weren’t expecting to be in Q3 today. Generally though, when we do get things working well together, we’re quite fast, which is encouraging.”
There is just one thing that the stewards had to give their thoughts on after the session after an incident during Q1.
Manor’s Esteban Ocon will start the race from the back after being given a three-place grid penalty after qualifying after an incident with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. The Frenchman initially claimed 20th on the grid ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.
It will be the seventh straight race that Ocon has started from one of the last three grid positions. It is the first time that Ocon has been given a grid penalty in his short Formula One career.
Formula One has spent a while without any penalties, with the last grid affected by racers moving because of demotions being in Japan at the start of last month.
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